A Thomas County School System teacher recently earned statewide honors from the Georgia Art Education Association (GAEA). Emily Holton, art teacher at Thomas County Middle School, received the GAEA’s Middle Level Art Educator of the Year Award for 2016. GAEA is a growing organization with more than 650 art educators throughout Georgia. She will receive her award at this year’s fall conference in October.
“Holton is a dynamic teacher who has worked to build an exceptional art program at the middle school,” said TCMS Principal Jamie Thompson. “She has also helped to organize major art events in the county.”
This is Holton’s eleventh year as an art educator. She taught at Mitchell County Middle School for the first seven years where she was awarded Teacher of the Year in 2012. This is her fourth year at Thomas County Middle School.
“I was extremely overjoyed to receive this award,” Holton said. “I will always be humbled and honored that I received recognition from my peers. Receiving this award confirms that all my hard work is making a difference.”
Over the years, Holton said she “watched some very deserving art teachers receive this award.”
“I was nominated by two different people,” said Holton. “First, I was nominated by Cairo High School's former art teacher, Zerric Clinton, who also serves as the president-elect for Georgia Art Education Association. I was also nominated by current GAEA president, Lauren Phillips. For the past eight years, I have served on GAEA board. I am honored and thrilled to have even been nominated. Winning Middle Grades Teacher of the Year was an added bonus.”
While in high school, Holton had the desire to live on the coast and sell original seascapes and sea life paintings. After she graduated, she decided instead to pursue a bachelor’s degree in art. During her first year at Valdosta State University, she became interested in teaching art.
“On a trip to the local magnet school, I saw how enthusiastic the children were about their art class,” Holton said. “After that experience, my eyes were opened to how great art education in a public school could be. I am very grateful that I changed my mind and became an art teacher because being able to provide art education to students is very rewarding.”
Each year, Holton organizes the Thomas County Schools Art Exhibition, kindergarten through 8th grade, at the Thomasville Center for the Arts. This exhibition is a chance to show the public the genres and techniques that the students complete in the art classes. Exhibition themes over the years have included Pop Art, Eastern Art, Hispanic Art and artwork inspired by American artists.
Holton said, “I also organize and teach Thomas County Schools Art After School program, kindergarten through 4th grade. The Art After School program gives students a chance to take art classes after school in addition to during the school day. During these after-school classes students receive in-depth training in different mediums and techniques.”
The latest program implemented is Thomas County Middle School’s new STEAM “On Tour” program. This program includes a collection of 24 reproductions of famous paintings that are now on display in the hallway outside Holton’s classroom.
“I’m excited about implementing our new STEAM ‘On Tour’ program,” Holton said. “It is like our own personal art gallery. Many of the students in my school have little or no opportunities to visit an art gallery, so the program helps me expose my students to important and influential art.”
In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Holton serves as the yearbook sponsor. Eighth grade students who are interested in being on the yearbook staff apply, and those who are chosen are placed in a year-long art class. The yearbook/art class gives Holton the chance to teach graphic design using different computer programs to design the yearbook.
Holton added, “Last year I started a yearbook cover contest at my school. For the contest, any fifth through eighth grade student submits a design for the cover of the yearbook. Their original artwork is used as the inspiration for a graphic designed cover. The student with the winning design receives a yearbook for free.”
Holton was recognized by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dusty Kornegay and school board members at the September 13 meeting.